With the words “Saturday Night at the Auction” proudly displayed on a massive banner across its otherwise unassuming faÃ§ade, the building off the corner of 75th and Cottage Grove emanated stale light onto the sidewalk as expectant patrons filed into its doors. Last Saturday night the building was brimming with anxious bidders, each perusing the goods to be sold with discriminating taste. The goods–well, they were decidedly unlike those offered by most auctions. What did they sell? Everything you could ever imagine, but most you probably wouldn’t: piles of power tools, heaps of costumes, TVs, from Auvios to Zeniths. If you’re looking for something, but nothing in particular, this is the place for you.
The auction ritual began as soon as the colorfully attired auctioneer took his seat on a platform at the front of the store, causing the bidders to sit up in the pew-like benches that filled the building. A set of three tattered superhero movie posters was the first item on the block, but even after the silver-tongued auctioneer had cut the price down to three dollars no one would bite. Frustrated by the lack of enthusiasm for the exquisite piece of memorabilia he was offering, the auctioneer did just as any seasoned salesman would do: he threw in a bonus. The added incentive of a mirror with an engraved tiger was enough to incite the night’s first bidding war, driving the price up to five bucks. While the proud new owner of the night’s first prize forked over his cash, a set of eight screwdrivers taped to a piece of cardboard made its way to the block. Though they were clearly a steal at six dollars, the screwdrivers failed to stir up any interest and were shelved after a few of the auctioneer’s unanswered calls. Just when the crowd’s interest looked to be waning, an assistant’s cry of, “Let’s sell a bible while we waitin’ on that number!” reinvigorated the bidders. The holy book changed hands for four dollars.
After the patrons had had their fill of the smorgasbord of items (not to mention the free buffet), I spoke with the coordinator of the event in an attempt to understand how this curious auction came to be. His answer was as intriguing as it was simple: “With junk, you get hooked.”
On a whim, real estate agent Charles McGary went to an auction and purchased an item that he then resold to his dentist for a substantial profit. After purchasing a sofa at another auction and flipping it for more than twice the price he had paid, he realized that reselling antiques and collectibles could be more profitable than selling property. Since that time, McGary has realized his vision, opening many retail stores that resell goods to end buyers. But after establishing his new business venture, he found himself inundated with lower-end goods that would not likely sell well in his more moderately-priced stores. It then occurred to McGary that the system of buying and reselling items that had been so good to him could also work on a smaller scale for individuals in his community.
By auctioning off such odds and ends at low prices to Craigslist- and eBay-savvy customers, the Saturday night auction has become a source of profit for all parties involved. The auction house clears out otherwise unsellable items, and the bidders get a crack at making some money. And it’s pretty fun, too. This is no small-scale junk sale; the first night of the auction drew close to 200 patrons, each one a legitimate bidder (ensured by the three-dollar cover charge) interested in making a few bucks or picking up some trinket they didn’t expect to find.
Whether you’re a hipster looking for some really, really ironic new gear, or just a bargain hunter looking for a diamond in the rough, you won’t know what the auction holds until you’ve seen it for yourself.
McGary’s auction runs every Saturday night at 7pm at 7439 S. Cottage Grove.